Toronto Catholic board unveils ‘Vision’

By  Innocent Madawo, Catholic Register Special
  • December 13, 2007

{mosimage}TORONTO - The Toronto Catholic District School Board has launched its version of the Character Development Initiative proposed by the government of Ontario in October last year.

The board launched the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations, a seven-point document that is alternatively known as “Our Vision of the Learner” or “Vision,” on Dec. 6 at an event presided over by Toronto’s Archbishop Thomas Collins. More than 1,200 people including school principals, students, parents and parish priests at the board’s 201 schools were gathered at the Metro Convention Centre.

The “Vision” stipulates that, by time of graduation, each of the more than 90,000 Catholic students must be: a discerning believer; an effective communicator; a reflective, creative and holistic thinker; a self-directed, responsible, life-long learner; a collaborative contributor; a caring family member; and (ultimately) a responsible citizen.

The board’s Director of Education, Kevin Kobus, said the hallmark of the “Vision” was that a Catholic graduate should satisfy “distinctive expectations (that are) determined and shaped by the vision and destiny of the human person emerging from our faith.”

The document says that Catholic education views human life as an integration of body, mind and spirit and, rooted in this vision, the church’s education system fosters the “search for knowledge as a life-long spiritual and academic quest.”

In his keynote address, Collins said the longstanding Catholic creed of faith, hope and charity is the cornerstone of virtue and morality, which in turn bring out humility in individuals.

“If a community is committed to a virtuous life, it is easy for individuals to live a virtuous life and (therefore) become good citizens,” said the archbishop.

For all that to happen, Collins said, “We must make sure that all of us in education are rooted in Christ.”

Collins’s words were the icing on a message that had already been delivered through a dramatization by a group of students who acted out the “virtues” of the board’s “Vision” in a silent drama that was as entertaining as it was effective in conveying the message.

The Catholic school system is in harmony with the Ontario government’s education goals, said Dr. Avis Glaze, chief executive officer of the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat in the Ministry of Education.

In her address at the event, Glaze outlined the government’s character development goals as shared responsibility, student (individual) responsibility, commitment by teachers to develop children’s characters, using character development, not as a curriculum on its own but to strengthen existing curriculums, and finally, for all concerned to be committed to community building and diversity.

Acknowledging the board’s “Vision,” she said: “We know Catholic schools have had faith and character development before, but my challenge is to take it to a new level. We want students to continuously learn how to empathize and how to be humane. (Also) home and school should not be seen as separate institutions of influence.”

All Toronto Catholic schools will now implement the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations as part of the board’s contribution to the government’s character development initiative, said the board’s new chair, Catherine LeBlanc-Miller.

(Madawo is a freelance writer in Toronto.)

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